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The Cube, an Art Moderne Era Home Built Entirely out of Concrete

by Sofia Tuovinen

The Cube, an Art Moderne Era Home Built Entirely out of Concrete | Design*Sponge
Brandon and Ashley Whiteside are a dreamer and doer duo that doesn’t get bored easily — especially with a most unique renovation project right under their belt. They recently finished a complete remodel on “the Cube,” a three-story house built in 1937 that they bought from its original owners. Brandon and Ashley named their home quite literally after what it is — a true cube, with three 750-square-foot floors stacked on top of each other. What makes their Art Deco and Streamline Moderne style house so exceptional is that it is built entirely out of concrete (excepting four vertical steel supports, one in each corner). Rumor has it that the engineer who built it had lost two homes prior, one to a fire and the other to a tornado. In economic and utilitarian spirit, he built his third home to last — the house, located close to downtown Oklahoma City, has stood solidly for over 80 years. It has seen its surrounding neighborhood fall apart and begin to rise again, all under one family’s ownership. Today, the house serves as the neighborhood’s storm shelter and offers Brandon, Ashley and their six-year-old daughter Nora a truly one-of-a-kind family home.

The Cube never ended up on the market, as Brandon and Ashley heard about the original owners’ intention to sell early on, and stayed in contact until the timing worked for everyone. Since changing ownership 18 months ago, the house has undergone a lovingly executed restorative facelift. “My goals when updating were to honor the style that the Cube always could have been,” Ashley says. “In essence, I wanted to avoid a possible theme, instead letting the fun and style look like it had evolved and developed organically over the years.” Ashley, an interior stylist and abstract artist, spent a good while designing the renovation as much as possible in advance, scheduling timelines and lining up the funds. As few updates had occurred in the home’s eight decades, Brandon and Ashley went for the whole kit and caboodle — new roof, windows, flooring, electrical, landscaping, exterior and interior paint along with full kitchen and bath remodels were all included in the project. Although Ashley always urges her clients to complete one room before moving onto the next, she learned the importance of her own advice the hard way. “We were extremely cavalier in the dreaming phase, electing to do it all at once,” she shares. “Following [my own] advice could have saved my routine-loving husband some real heartache!” she laughs.

The concrete structure that makes the Cube so unique also provided some challenges during the renovation. Working with concrete walls, floors, ceilings, beams, stairs and porches meant that significant changes to the existing layout were out of the question. Hanging anything, especially heavy or load-bearing contraptions, turned out to be rather challenging as well. What you lose in flexibility, you gain in sturdiness and lack of squeaky floors.

Ashley’s desire to create beautiful spaces is rooted in the feeling of being energized by her surroundings. “These desires are amplified by feeling like my home is a showroom for my work, and in many regrettable ways, an extension of my personality. I can get so engulfed in my projects that I feel like inviting someone to view it is actually letting them get to know me.” With the remodel complete, Ashley has filled the house with her signature mix of old and new, rearranged, styled and rearranged again to find the best and most inspiring solutions for each space. “I want stories and charm, a little something weird and maybe a few things to laugh at when you come over!” she says. When asked about her takeaways from the renovation, Ashley shares, “the process is, well, very humanizing. You’ve got to humble yourself a little to get through it. Being a fixer and a dreamer by nature, I’m most thankful for and most bewildered by the fact that I look around and there’s not anything needing me.” She jokingly adds, “also, I might lose my mind soon because what am I supposed to do now?!” —Sofia

Photography by Emily Hart / Nina & B Photography

Image above: The first impression when entering the Cube is the view of the living room. For Ashley, this space was an opportunity to find the perfect balance between energetic colors and white. This is the sweet spot!

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It’s almost hard to remember this room in all yellowed beige with brown ceilings and carpet,” Ashley says. “Being light and gussied up a bit really suits it.”

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Two abstract pieces by local artist Bob Palmer adorn the living room wall. Ashley and Brandon chose to paint both the walls and ceiling white to give the space a fresh and well-deserved facelift.

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I am […] so energized by time in a beautiful space. It just does it for me like nothing else,” Ashley shares. The dining area opens up to both the kitchen and living room and is the perfect spot to take in the unique design elements of the first floor. 

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The dining area is one of Ashley’s favorite spots. “It’s a great place for morning coffee or science experiments or mud pies or pretending that I’m watching the noodles cook even though I’m completely daydreaming!” The gallery wall features  Ashley’s own abstract pieces, mixed in with vintage finds. 

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The dining room is where Nora works on many a creative project.

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Just a few months ago, the kitchen was covered in fruit patterned wallpaper and had dropped ceilings that hid the stunning concrete beams.

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The kitchen is my ‘pièce de résistance’,” Ashley explains. “I was inspired by metal cabinets of the 50s, as well as the clean lines of modernism, and hoped to marry the two.” Ashley and Brandon also chose to honor the Art Deco and Moderne influences by opting for marble terrazzo tiles and deco shelf brackets. 

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The powder bath on the first floor was updated during the remodel and features beautiful pink grasscloth wallpaper for a refined vintage feel.

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Ashley and Brandon commissioned local artist Natalie Kent to do an exterior vector of the family’s house — it’s a spot-on illustration of the Cube!

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The Cube’s basement serves as the family room as well as the neighborhood’s storm shelter. Ashley and Brandon aimed to hide the inevitable ductwork by painting it the same color as the ceiling.

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Our basement is one of our favorite places to be, and Nora holds more neighborhood dance parties down here than you might suspect,” Ashley shares. The concrete walls were painted a midnight blue for a dramatic effect that highlights the cheerful decor. 

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“It feels almost incongruent to suggest that coziness and comfort can occur in a concrete house, so that became my goal,” Ashley says. “The layering is undoubtedly maximalist, but leaves few chances for cold encounters.”

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Plush rugs, various pillows, a faux sheepskin and rattan screen add layers of texture to this all-concrete space.

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Those corner windows are dang magic,” Ashley says when describing the main bedroom upstairs. The space was designed to be dark and calming to contrast the more cheerful common areas of the house. 

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Turning the Cube into the beautiful home it is today wasn’t just smooth sailing. “A few changes happened in the plan, and suddenly our entire home was a disaster area,” Ashley remembers. “We had our mattress on the floor in the master bedroom while every other single thing was corralled and under drop cloths!”

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Ashley and Brandon kept the 1950s mint green tiles in the upstairs bathroom, but added a new shower.

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One of the upstairs bedrooms was converted into an office and painting studio for Ashley. “This vibrant space gives me a view of the backyard when working at the desk, or a flush of natural light when at the easel,” she explains. 

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“If things could define your heart song these guys sing mine,” Ashley describes the velvet-framed painting and greyhound statue, a family heirloom.

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The office corner is where Ashley paints her abstract pieces. “My artistic comfort zone is blending pastels and making pretty chaos, so I’m forcing myself to add contrast that’s not safe. Black is bold and uncertain and also exactly the courage I’m trying to have right now.”

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“Our 6-year-old daughter halfway doesn’t know she’s a kid sometimes, so having a space that seemed too juvenile doesn’t suit her,” Ashley explains the aesthetic in Nora’s room.

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To maximize the floor space in Nora’s narrow bedroom, Ashley and Brandon tucked her twin bed into this nook. “She still thinks it’s a princess bed, so I guess we’re all happy with it!” Ashley says.

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The balcony above the garage brings Palm Springs vibes all the way to Oklahoma. “This sweet spot is such a reminder to us that we aren’t cool enough to live in this house!” Ashley jokes. “Yoga, reading a book, dining al fresco, neighbors coming over to talk, watching sunsets and storms — this is the place for it all.”

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By adding artificial turf on their balcony floor, Ashley and Brandon turned a completely blank space into a tropical oasis.

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Brandon, a worship pastor, and Ashley, an interior stylist and abstract artist, met in college in Nashville, TN. They’ve called Oklahoma City home for the last decade. “We got so darn lucky,” Ashley says when asked about acquiring their dream home. “The neighborhood is quite near downtown, so proximity is great, but the neighbors [are] even greater. Young creatives, a park, historic homes, but not perfect enough to be pretentious —that’s our sweet spot.”

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The exterior view of the Cube, Ashley and Brandon’s home built entirely entirely out of concrete. Although the remodel is complete, Ashley already has a new project in mind. “As silly as it sounds, all I want to do now is have a local artist paint a rad mural on our back fence. Sarah Sullivan of Tulsa has it going on.”

SOURCE LIST

Living Room
Paint – Alana by Sherwin Williams
Abstract artwork – artist Bob Palmer of Oklahoma City
Couch & chandelier – West Elm
Chair – vintage
Coffee table – Erdos
Bookshelf – cb2
Rug & dresser – vintage
White lamp – Overstock.com
Art Deco armoire – vintage
Vase – Dwell for Target
Terracotta planter – Rejuvenation
Rose lamp – IKEA

Dining Area
Paint – Alabaster by Sherwin Williams
Deco pendant – Rejuvenation
Settee, cane back bentwood chairs, brass floor lamp and pink marble tulip table – vintage
Seafoam planter – Anthropologie
Fiberglass planter – vintage.
Abstract art – Ashley Whiteside
Striped pitcher – Target

Kitchen
Cabinets, countertop & sink – IKEA
Appliances – Home Depot
Faucet, cabinet handles, both light fixtures – Overstock.com
Tile, similar on Houzz
Artwork – Ashley Whiteside
Rug – vintage

Basement/Family Room
Paint – Mount Aetna (navy) and Alabaster (white) by Sherwin Williams
Lilian wall hanging – vintage via Jo and June
Couch, chair, bench, and rug – vintage
Faux sheepskin, console table and planter- Target
Lamps, blue pillow, marble table and agate box – West Elm
Nelson replica pendant – Overstock.com
Screen – Overstock.com
Print – Interior Gilt
Bar cart – Dwell for Target
Chrome lamp – Anthropologie
Mini fridge – Urban Outfitters
Basic-Witz dresser – vintage

Main Bedroom
Paint – Slippery Shale by Behr
Sconces, small mirror, task lamp and pottery – Target
Bed – West Elm
Nightstands, terrazzo lamps, bedding and floor mirror – West Elm
Lumbar pillow –  Sarikaya Kilim Pillows
Vintage Plycraft Lounge chair and ottoman – Retroden Tulsa
Johnson Carper dresser – vintage
Shag rug – Overstock.com

Office/Studio
Wallpaper – Anthropologie
All furniture, rug, painted lady art and greyhound statue – vintage
Brass lamp – Target (discontinued)
Blue pagoda lamp – Horchow via Chairish
Billy bookcase – IKEA
Lucite cantilever chair and vintage watercolor silk fabric – vintage
Easel – Houzz
Vintage brass unicorn – Scoops Vintage Modern
All abstract artwork – Ashley Whiteside

Nora’s Room
Wall paint – Art Deco Pink by Behr Marquee
Ceiling paint – Alabaster by Sherwin Williams
Rugs and rattan bookshelf – vintage
Bench – Target
Bed – West Elm
Bedding – West Elm and Target
Pom Pom wall art – Land of Nod

Balcony
Planters – West Elm
Runner and solar sconce – Overstock.com
Russell Woodard fiberglass furniture – vintage
Fringe umbrella – Overstock
Artificial turf – Home Depot

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Comments

  • I like blue so this kitchen is absolutely fantastic. All interiors in this home have a very original design and seems a creative place.

    • That is such a compliment! Yes, this blue in the kitchen felt right to me here. With all the white, and the kitchen itself not being as flooded with natural light, keeping white cabinets would have felt cold and possibly dirty looking when shadowed. These were actually ikea, and I can’t tell you how thrilled we have been with the quality!

    • Oh, thank you so much! You noticed my not-so-subtle obsession with them, yeah? Haha. My favorite finds have been from Craigslist, Etsy sellers in Turkey, and Gretchen of @kyrosedesigns on IG. Seven in my house are from Gretchen!

      Best of luck sourcing! They’re always quirky and odd sizing, but that irregularity makes for the real magic I say.

    • Thank you Ashley! It was such a dream to work with you, and that gorgeous pink cube! Knowing that some of my rugs still reside there is the best feeling! And the fact that I lived a mile away wasn’t too bad either!

  • Who would think a concrete, square house could have so much character?! The blue/orange/peach/apricot/pink colour scheme is heaven. Thank you for not replacing the green tile in the bathroom, such a lovely link to the past. Silly to paint a mural on the fence? Nah, your house is made for it! Fantastic!

    • My initial thoughts exactly, and if you saw the house before we got rolling, your suspicions would have been confirmed. That is so kind of you to say! Thank you!

  • What a fun fab home. Love it all. My grandparents lived in a 30s streamlined modern concrete home with blue metal kitchen cabinets. Look at you coming full circle!

    • YOU ARE KIDDING ME!! I so love knowing that. Thank you for sharing!! May I ask what part of the world that was located? So curious about this style!

  • SO BEAUTIFUL! Wow – this is so very inspiring! Love the black VCT tile so much, your dining settee, as well as your lovely textiles and rugs (including the astro turf) My fiance and I just bought a streamline moderne style house in Baltimore and I feel like you truly ‘get it’ – such a unique architecture style and you really picked amazing colors and pieces that complement it. I am so inspired!!! -Jon

    • I am so stoked to hear that another house of this style will get some modern love. They’re rare and less well known in these parts, but it’s possibke that that makes me love them all the more. Good luck on your “new” home adventure!

      • Thank you so much! If you’re interested you can find listing photos of ours by googling “Eisenberg House Baltimore”

  • From 7th grade until I moved out for college, I lived in a house made from cinder blocks in Oklahoma. It, however, didn’t look this good :)

    • What are the chances?!?! That’s so cool! Do you know if it was inspired by the Portland Cement homes of that era?

  • This is the best home tour!
    I love the paint colors, furniture style and placement, gorgeous rugs, the kitchen, art ,everything! Please put up more pictures of your beautiful home on Instagram.
    AK

  • Beautiful, gorgeous, can’t compliment you enough! I grew up in a concrete home on the island of Guam. Being concrete made it typhoon proof. You make me want to go home again! I know what I would do with those concrete blocks in the dining room . . .

  • I absolutely love your space. I love that’s colorful and layered without being cluttered in any way! As someone who tends to lean towards the minimalist when decorating, do you have any tips for what touches make the biggest impact? I always find a million tiny treasures when I’m antiquing/thrifting, but I always hesitate on bigger pieces. What things do you look for when you’re looking to make a statement and add character to a room?

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